I've been learning japanese for quite a few weeks but I'm still pretty new to it so maybe this question will sound silly, if that's the case, I'm sorry.

Because I really love the way it sounds and looks, I tryed learning japanese. And now, I'd like to get myself a tattoo.

"Look at the sky" (which is one of the last things someone told me before passing away).

Then again I'm learning with books (not the best way, is it?) so I'm running into a doubt.

Would you rather spell it :

空を見て - Sora o mite


空を見上げて - Sora wo miagete

I'm having a hard time figuring out the difference (as I'm still a newbie in japanese) and as it's an important decision (the tattoo I mean) I'd really like if someone could explain the difference.

  • 2
    Is the sentence supposed to be a command? A polite request? A response to an unstated question? These nuances matter in Japanese. I think your post would benefit from explaining how this quote is meant. Especially since you plan on having it tattooed.
    – Daniel
    Apr 13, 2017 at 18:48
  • @Daniel is definitely right, but from the context of why you want this tattoo it would be probably something more polite I think Apr 13, 2017 at 20:01
  • I would try to stay away from using hiragana in a tatoo IMHO. Take some time, do some searching for a good compound Kanji for the expression.
    – Mark
    Apr 14, 2017 at 3:58
  • Also, a word of advice if you go through with it: make sure the tattoo artist can write actual Japanese. It's not a picture. If he or she doesn't know the stroke order, then chances are it'll look very strange.
    – Daniel
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:15
  • That's a good point @Daniel , I already thought about it and yes it has to be someone who knows their stuff about Japanese. I'm not really good in Japanese but I know a lot about tattoos so don't worry I won't make any stupid mistakes like that. That question was a bit more than just about the tattoo because I was curious about the difference between the two expressions as it wasn't really explained in the book I have been learning with. But I know I still have a long way to go in japanese before I'll feel confident enough in my skills before getting a tattoo.
    – Nelson
    Apr 18, 2017 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


空を見て is "Looking at the sky," and 空を見上げて is "Looking up at the sky". Both are grammatical and make perfect sense as a Japanese sentence.

They are reasonable choices for a book title or a line in a poem, for example. This may also be acceptable on a souvenir T-shirt, a mug or a fan. However, I have to say such a tattoo looks weird and funny to the eye of Japanese people for several reasons.

First of all, Japanese people are very wary of tattoos in the first place, and traditional Japanese tattoos do not have any readable character. But I won't go into detail about cultural things for now. Even if we accept the idea of readable character tattoos, this sentence may not be suitable as the design of a tattoo. People usually expect something that looks cool and exotic in a tattoo. However 空を見(上げ)て is a very plain, casual and easy sentence even a 3-year-old Japanese kid can make. In general hiragana has a cute and/or childish image as a design element, which is probably not what you want for a tattoo. If you used this sentence, it might end up looking as if it were a tattoo in Comic Sans to those who can actually read it.

  • Thanks for the answer, I think i'll take some time to think about the tattoo and/or find a better way to illustrate what I'm trying to represent with it. Because I've been learning for not very long I can understand that the way I 'm expressing myself seems a bit childish, yet thanks for the explanation!
    – Nelson
    Apr 14, 2017 at 7:44

A good word/verb for "Look up" is 仰(ぐ) (see here) You could try a combination like 空仰 or 天仰. They are not words that I can find in a dictionary though. Would like to know what native Japanese speakers think of this.

  • (-2) reason please?
    – Mark
    Apr 14, 2017 at 5:59
  • 1
    空を仰ぐ or 空を仰ぎ見る is not uncommon but you are posting an answer to a question that is 1) 100% made-up and unverifiable in any dictionary and 2) a question in itself to native speakers .............
    – virgil9306
    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:05
  • 1
    Pretty sure based on/in comparison to...? I'm not sure this page is related to that, but I guess in conversation you can omit particles sometimes. e.g. 怪我、大丈夫? or something... but that's not the same as creating new words
    – virgil9306
    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:37
  • 2
    「天を仰げ」とか「空を仰げ」とかならいいかなと思いますけど、「空仰」「天仰」はちょっと・・・。(「くうぎょう」「てんぎょう」?)ところで、「天仰」をひっくり返すと「[仰天]{ぎょうてん}」(←めっちゃびっくりすること) ^ ^
    – chocolate
    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:40
  • 1
    [天仰]{てんあお}...(?_?) 「見る」の連用形(名詞形)は「[見]{み}」ですが、「仰ぐ」の連用形は「[仰]{あお}」じゃないです。。。
    – chocolate
    Apr 14, 2017 at 6:51

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